December 30, 2019

Neo’s Leap in The Matrix #ifthiswereaTTRPG

Today’s #ifthiswereaTTRPG post is around a famous jump: Neo’s first attempted leap from skyscraper to skyscraper when he enters Morpheus’ training program.

There are many important themes in The Matrix. But a critically important one is about the boundaries of our thoughts and feelings’ impact on the world around us and how re-imagining those limitations away is a conduit for incredible growth. And that’s a wonderful theme for any tabletop role playing game as well: how both the players and their characters can grow through breaking through each other’s barriers of assumptions about what is and isn’t possible.

Neo and Morpheus are in the training program and Morpheus tries to whet Neo’s appetite with this theme with his words but to Neo, and to many, this advice comes across as far too rooted in riddles than reality. On top of the skyscraper, Neo sees Morpheus leap hundreds of feet, thousands of feet up in the air, with complete ease, as if the success of the jump was preordained. “Whoa!”

And the moment where it comes time for Neo to attempt the same jump is the subject of today’s #ifthiswereaTTRPG post. There is a lot of pressure on Neo, is he “The One”? Can he live up to that name? And will he disappoint all of the human beings counting on him on the ship? And can he take in this new information and find a way to bend and alter reality to his imagination and will?

When confronted with the decision to make the leap, the GM would describe Morpheus’ perfect jump and landing, as well as the ridiculous – and formerly impossible – distance he’s just covered. The GM would ask the player playing Neo to make a Willpower roll just to not freak out at seeing something so extraordinary.

Of course, the player passes that roll with flying colors. The GM looks to the player “it’s now or never.”

The player playing Neo gulps but steels themselves: they, and their character Neo, will give it their all. They tell the GM that they’ll make a running start and jump across the gap between the skyscrapers. Of course, the player rolls terribly and Neo falls to the concrete jungle below, the training program absorbing his energy to prevent his death. The other characters are crushed – they had got their hopes up for this “One.”

The player playing Neo is surprised: they thought they really had understood, that it was meant to be. But that’s one of the great messages of The Matrix: it neither wasn’t Neo’s destiny to jump the skyscrapers nor is that fact important. What is important is that Neo’s mind was still living within the boundaries of what he perceived as “real” and “possible” and that’s why he failed to make the leap. And the player playing Neo, in justifying their roll without that wisdom, made its difficulty far harder, thus leading to its failure.

Great scene, greater movie!